Not only this, but in England in the 16th century pigeon guano was the only known source of saltpetre, an essential ingredient of gunpowder and considered to be a highly valued commodity as a result.In Iran, where eating pigeon flesh was forbidden, dovecotes were set up and used simply as a source of fertilizer for melon crops.
Pigeons were carried on ships in convoys and in the event of a U-boat attack a messenger pigeon was released with details of the location of the sinking ship.
The birds also played a vital role in intelligence gathering and were used extensively behind enemy lines where the survival rate was only 10%.
In the Second World War pigeons were used less due to advances in telecommunications, but the birds still relayed invaluable information back to the allies about the German V1 and V2 Rocket sites on the other side of the English Channel.
Perception of the pigeon through the centuries has changed from God to devil and from hero to zero!
Back to top Although pigeon guano is seen as a major problem for property owners in the 21st century, it was considered to be an invaluable resource in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries in Europe.
It was the Sumerians in Mesopotamia that first started to breed white doves from the wild pigeon that we see in our towns and cities today and this undoubtedly accounts, certainly in part, for the amazing variety of colours that are commonly found in the average flock of urban pigeons.